Anyone have any favorite home-brew special abilities or hacks of those in the rulebook?
Some of my crew’s favorites:
To reward people for helping the team…
Team Player: You gain an additional xp trigger: You made a tangible sacrifice to help the crew (spent stress to support a teammate, took harm for a teammate, used personal items/coin/connections, etc.)
We found the Savage Cutter ability a little confusing so made our own version:
Savage Terror: When you unleash physical violence, it’s especially frightening. On a successful violent physical action, lower-tier opponents are frightened, granting you +1 effect on your next action against them. Higher-tier opponents may or may not become frightened (GM discretion).
Our crew has two Tinker oriented players so we liked making a way for them to share knowledge.
Design Translator: Can convert personal long-term recipe/design projects into “Crew Projects.” These projects are 4 ticks larger than the personal clock they are based on. Any crew member may contribute ticks to the clock. Any crew member who contributes at least three ticks is considered to also know the recipe once it is completed (they do NOT have to learn the recipe on their own).
We’ve made up a bunch more that we need to playtest. We’ve put all of ours, all of the book’s, and any other creative-commons ones we’ve found in this airtable. Feel free to use/copy/edit at will :).
What are your favorite ones? May I place them in this database for my team and others to use (with attribution)?
With my group’s help, we made this one:
Populist: When you work on a long term project to improve relations with Labor & Trade or Citizenry factions, you get +1 result level to your roll (a 1-3 becomes a 4/5, etc.). When you take this, improve the relationship with one faction by one.
Sounds cool! How has it played out? What have you liked about it?
It’s only been in play a couple of sessions. It’s been used in a couple of downtime actions, since that’s it’s primary goal, but the DM also gave me increased effect on an in-score roll in Nightmarket, where the character was making a Sway roll to the nearby merchants to not give in to the Bluecoats’ bullying them. I’ve been pleased with it.
I knew about that repository but totally forgot about looking to it as a source of special abilities. Thanks!!!
I love special abilities that are careful with their wording so as to avoid the many pitfalls of Blades benefit design. But that also means I don’t love a lot of homebrew special abilities! I mean I really enjoy the way Blades abilities are written because they contain a very particular blend of clarity, simplicity, and respect that is unmatched in other games. But that also means it’s difficult to write abilities for this game. Some things I noticed:
- Their wording can be taken at face value. There are no Gotcha! moments and rarely does the detail text say anything that the surface level reading of the ability does not. Just simple language and clear, actionable benefits.
- They never unequivocally grant benefits that can be permanently taken away (like gear or friends) by a consequence the GM might need to inflict. Like “+1 effect” isn’t done anymore with actions since a 1-3 usually means there was zero effect, and 4/5 can mean reduced effect, which later begs the question: does this trigger after the GM has accounted for all factors and before the roll outcome, or after all of that?_ (I know the answer, but players won’t always know because the game is not built to allow such a broad bonus). Instead consider pointing to the factors, which the GM can only evaluate once even when an ability boosts one.
- They never contain triggers that cannot be met. Like an opponent being higher tier during an action roll (Tier is a rating used to measure factions as a whole, not individual NPCs)
In other words, ability design is tough!
As an example, here are some of my favorite homebrew concoctions, the current text for which is the result of countless hours across multiple years of consideration and playtest:
Street Code: You gain an additional XP trigger: When you uphold the street code of honor despite difficulty or danger. When you duel someone (one on one) to the death, also mark crew XP.
Catch Me If You Can: You may expend your special armor to resist a consequence from detection or security measures, or to push yourself for a feat of escape or stealth.
Driven: You gain an additional XP trigger: When you get away from or stand up to “the Man.” Due to fierce ambition or harsh experience, you get +1 stress box.
Linguist: You can understand bits and pieces of any dialect, even those you never learned. You can mark 1 stress to hold a conversation despite language barriers.
@SaveMeJebu5 thank you! Your observation about the careful way the abilities are written is very helpful. I need to review our homebrew ones to make them better (suggestions welcome!). I love your home-brew ones.
Clarifying question: Does driven cost 3 upgrades instead of 1 because of the Stress box component?
Also, may I include your special abilities (with attribution) in my open-source collection?
I’d love people’s thoughts on this homebrew special ability. It lacks the clear brevity of @SaveMeJebu5’s examples so I feel like it needs editing.
Parkour! Your ability to maneuver quickly, and in 3 dimensions, is exceptional. You may move through crowds, obstacle-strewn areas, climb or clamber across rooftops as easily as normal people jog through clear areas.
You may push yourself to move through any of those environments as quickly as an athlete sprinting OR perform a feat of near super-human acrobatics.
And yes, the name is an homage to Harry Dresden .
As a player, I love a good acrobatic/parkour ability. A lot of this ground might be already covered by the Lurk’s The Devil’s Footsteps ability (p. 74), which strikes a really nice balance of generalization and specific use cases. The biggest change in your ability is making this sort of activity available at all times without a push – which is fine, but may change the feel of things a bit. You’re moving a bit out of the realm of normal people and into the world of Batman or Spiderman.
As a side note, this happily reminded me of the Blades-esque story in District B-13 (French title Banlieue 13). David Belle, who developed Parkour and made it a thing, has some incredible, balletic action sequences. Worth a look if you haven’t seen it (or a re-look if you have!).
I haven’t seen that movie, so that clip was great to see. Thanks!
Thanks also for the observation that it was a bit superhuman. That wasn’t the feel I meant to go for, so I’ve revised it…
Parkour! Your ability to maneuver quickly, and in 3 dimensions, is exceptional. When you push yourself, choose one of the following additional benefits: move into an extremely favorable position — escape in such a way your opponents cannot easily follow.
This community is such a great help! I’m going to try for feedback on another one. One of my players would like to evolve his character towards becoming a demon. So that made me look at the demonic ability to teleport and want to create a special ability he might be able to acquire (after paying substantial costs). But once again, I find myself writing TOO much. I need to simplify! Any suggestions? Thanks folks!
Demonic Travel: [elemental type] You may push yourself to teleport as a demon of this type can. A fortune roll may be needed to determine if there are any possible locations within your range. By default your range is stone’s throw [Range 2]. However, you may spend extra stress to increase your range. By default you require a round to find a spot to jump to by reaching out to the world around you supernaturally (assuming you can’t see it directly), however you may spend one extra stress to complete this scan instantly, allowing you to jump and act in the same round.
Demonic Travel: You may push yourself to teleport from a site of your demon’s chosen elemental affinity (P. 304) to another at a stone throw [Range 2], however you can increase the range by one per additional stress paid (see P. 221 for the scale). If the site can’t be seen, finding it through the supernatural is not immediate, but you may pay one stress to negate that.
Is this better? (it isn’t perfect)
I added the need to be on the site as Strange Travel, and changed it to the “canon” terms. Many times the original section includes the guidelines you need. Additionally, try to implant the background mechanics in the flow of the writing (the chosen affinity, etc.)
I also removed the fiction of the travel not being immediate if you can see the next site, and the need to roll fortune to see if there is one for the following reasons:
- Why use it if it is not going to be always valid?
- The greater the range the more inconsistent it is - it is obvious you can something at great distance.
- To my view players should have control over the fiction.
- You said the player will pay substanial costs. They should enjoy the sacrifice.
- This ability can generate so many cool moments.
- They are becoming a demon.
I love what you did. More in-theme. Let me iterate again using your feedback…
Demonic Travel: You may expend your special armor to teleport from a site of your demon’s chosen elemental affinity (P. 304) to another within line of site at a stone’s throw [Range 2]. Spend 1 stress to extend the range to down the road, 2 stress to reach several blocks away, 3 to reach across the district. Double the stress cost if the destination is not in sight.
By making this a special armor, it can only be used once… which feel appropriate given how powerful it is. I like the ability for the player to spend stress to increase the range, but I’m also pretty sure I’m making it way too complicated. Maybe is should simplify it to…
Demonic Travel: You may expend your special armor to teleport from a site of your demon’s chosen elemental affinity (P. 304) to another you can see. Spend 3 stress to reach an out-of-site location within a few blocks.
The last one is great! The idea of using special armor is incredible and solves many problems, and the current method of determing the range and its cost is simple and clear.